Friday, November 19, 2010

A Hilariously Funny Piece On Writing As A Woman

So funny that it makes me suspect it can't be a woman who wrote this as broads have no sense of humor. Heh. Read it now. It's by Tawni O'Dell.

Two points I wish to make: The first one has to do with the idea that chicks can't write from a male point of view:

"Back Roads" was set in the coal-mining area where I grew up and was a dark, gritty portrayal of a family in crisis told entirely in the male first-person voice of 19-year-old Harley Altmyer. My publishing house was over the moon about the book, proclaiming me brilliant and tossing around phrases like "formidable talent" and "pitch-perfect prose." The book was so good, as a matter of fact, that they thought it would be best to conceal the fact that it had been written by a woman.


My editor went on to inform me that they had decided to publish the book using my initials. That way they wouldn't actually be lying and claiming I was a man but since the book was written in the male first person, everyone would assume it had been written by a man. Pretty sneaky.

There was only one problem with their reasoning: The book hadn't been written by a man. Not to mention one of the things everyone found so amazing about my novel was that it was so convincingly written from a male perspective by a woman. Wouldn't that be ruined if we pretended I was a man?
It's the Bronte sisters' old strategy of writing under male pseudonyms to be taken seriously. But I didn't realize it might still be needed.

And then pay attention to the amazement O'Dell records about her ability to write convincingly from a male perspective. We don't do that with Famous Boy Writers, do we? Even when they don't have any idea about how to do a female perspective which is actually pretty often, in my experience. Now chew over that for a while.

My second point has to do with the story about how a name like Tawni would not be taken seriously:

I was informed over the phone one morning that Tawni was a "biker chick name" and no one would take the novel seriously if we used it.

I was stunned, not only because I had naively thought art was one area where sexism didn't exist but because standing in my coffee-stained bathrobe in my suburban Chicago kitchen handing out juice boxes to my kids, I could hardly imagine anyone mistaking me for a biker chick.
It's her stunned reaction when meeting sexism for the first time (or at least the first time she noticed it about writing). One consequence of a less openly sexist education system is that women may now not meet the kind of sexism which is explicitly aimed at them until they start working (though this varies and also depends on other characteristics of the women, including their race, ethnicity and sexual preference).

Meeting sexism later is better than meeting it earlier, naturally. But many young women may believe sexism is all-but-gone or at least not worth fussing about, just because the schools and colleges offer a different environment than they used to. Just you wait, however.